Good break from Congressism
On 16 May 2014, darkness descended on India. For many, most of them liberal, left leaning, champions of Nehruvian secularism saw the dying light of freedom in the verdict. For many others, concerned more with their own future than the survival of Nehruvian politics, it was the day of Deepavali, the festival of lights. Not darkness but Indian homes got illuminated afresh.
It was the day of fear – fear that now the majority Hindus would pounce upon all who profess a different religion. It was the day of assurance that now onwards in India development will replace the religion and caste based divisive politics. It was a day of shock for Indian democracy. People gave unlimited mandate for a limited man. It was a day of jubilation. The people voted for the national interest. There was unanimity in only one aspect that it was the momentous day of change for Indian politics – for good or for bad.
The unthinkable has happened. In the 67-year-long history of independent India the voters opted for a single non-Congress party headed by a person known for his staunch anti-Congressism. In an India accustomed to fragmented political verdicts, for the first time in 30 years and seven national elections later, a single political party received the mandate to govern the country for five years from 2014. The extent of the victory has been so overwhelming, in an otherwise issueless election, that all supporters and detractors of the winning camp, could not but express their disbelief in delight or in despair.
The sentiments are strong since the architect of this victory, Narendra Damodardas Modi, the Gujarat chief minister, has been the most hated person for more than 12 years. So strong had been the feeling that even supporters of Modi, known fondly as NaMo, mostly kept a low profile. Only few, known for their erudition and command over English, were bold enough to take up the cudgel in support of him. Journalists from Gujarat noticed that any reports filed which had positive reference to the Gujarat government of NaMo received a harsh caesarean treatment and banished inside, if used at all. But reports, often coloured with acceptable dose of imagination, found prominent display. Journalists looking for career advancement opted to report accordingly. NaMo thus emerged as arguably the most hated politician in rest of India.
There was virtual unanimity of views on him. Think of any polite or not-so-polite abuse that one can hurl at a politician in high position, all have been used on Modi. Even his party colleagues squirmed in his presence worried that this should not get splashed in media. So much had been the antipathy that a political ally and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar went to the extent of cancelling a dinner he was scheduled to hold in honour of visiting BJP leaders in the state capital Patna. During the election campaign the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that she would not have allowed Modi’s chartered flight to land in the state but for the fact that she cared for democratic right. She kept on mentioning Modi as Mr Riot in her campaign speeches. Reports on Modi abuses did find prominent display.
So strong had been the antipathy that even on 15 May 2014, hours before the actual counting of votes was to commence. Influencers in Delhi, that included media persons of varied seniority, were convinced that Modi would not win a majority and a ragtag coalition would form the next government in India. There had been free flow of reports, which in media parlance is known as plants. One such report in a leading business paper claimed that Modi’s close associate Smriti Irani, who was pitted against the Congress campaign chief Rahul Gandhi, would be disqualified for exceeding the ceiling of expenses. There was no check on the procedures adopted on such matters. Nobody bothered to find it out and the grossly incorrect report was splashed as lead news in that newspaper. There are many such glaring instances of known predisposed reports on Narendra Modi and people close to him.
In an election it is the media that calls the shots by influencing public opinion. When the mainstream media had been reasonably certain that Indians would court disaster by electing a Narendra Modi government the electorates were expected to pay heed to that. Even if some Indians fail to realise the machinations of the Modi campaign the views converged that Modi would be so dependent on allies that he would not enjoy an unrestrained authority on his cabinet. Indians, the thinking types, went to bed on 15th assured that their greatest fear would be dispelled on 16 May, the day of the election result.
After an arduous five month long election campaign on 16 May came the deluge. It was a shock to see one NaMo steering a boat instead of Noah. Catastrophe worse than the two World wars would be the fate of India, lamented some. Good days will come once again (Achhey din aane wale hain) said those who voted for him. Eminent economist Jagdish Bhagwati hoped that with Narendra Modi, a votary of growth at the helm, India would avoid the ‘Amartya Sen fallacy’ of manipulating the social indicators with doles and subsidies and opt for growth. Shorn of the economic nomenclature, what majority of Indians opted for in the election was peace and prosperity. The overwhelming number of young Indians were concerned more of their own future than what detractors of Modi had been crying hoarse of secularism, polarisation, fascism and so on. They wanted a positive vibe that came from Modi.
The record-breaking election has created confusion among India’s thought leaders. Many like Kannada author U R Ananthamurthy had announced on record that in case of a Modi victory they would leave India. Their travel plans have yet to feature in media. Narendra Modi meanwhile spoke to his constituencies, Vadodara in Gujarat and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. He has not deviated from his theme of peace and prosperity. Indians of all hues, supporters and detractors are waiting. In days to come the numbers of detractors would diminish and that of supporters swell. Isn’t there a word called turncoat?
The author is a communication consultant